Linux and Closed Source Software


I just read [[http://www.osweekly.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2270&Itemid=449|this article]] on OSWeekly.com (via [[http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/06/08/03/0349226.shtml|Slastdot]]) and I must say I found the article pretty lame. Let me elaborate.

* F/LOSS software is usually open-source and adheres to open standards. Why should the FLOSS community then be help responsible for “finding some ground with closed source software”? Shouldn’t it be the other way round?
* As others have noted, the article is self contradictory. It talks about the lack of “exciting” software on Linux, and then goes on to blabber about Outlook-like software. Outlook has been around since forever now. What major innovations has personal information management seen in that space? Do people really think Outlook is an example software?
* Besides the fact that the article is inconsistent about “exciting” software, the premise itself is wrong. There are //tons// of exciting software on Linux. Infact, much //much// more than there ever will be on M$. The notion of what is exciting may of course vary among individuals, but do you really think that a closed source platform would be more conducive than an open source platform for hackers and developers who want to build truly creative software.
* Needless to say, I think there are several fairly robust and very well done software on Linux that can compete well with any closed source software. Let me list a few here (note that although some of the below //are// available for Windows, they are all still very much F/LOSS and all have their roots in Linux platforms):
* [[http://getfirefox.com|Firefox]] — browser
* [[http://amarok.sf.net|Amarok]] — music player/organizer
* [[http://qalculate.sf.net|Qalculate]] — calculator
* [[http://kopete.kde.org|Kopete]] — Multi-protocol Messenger (before you start whining, the reason why Kopete “lacks” some “features” is because the protocols are proprietary. For apples to apples comparison, compare closed-source Jabber clients with their open source counterparts)
* [[http://inkscape.org|Inkscape]] — Vector graphics
* [[http://httpd.apache.org|Apache]] — the web server that ushered Linux into the server market (//hat tip: Shashikant//).
* Finally, in a lot of cases, the software on Linux isn’t good enough simply because the market forces are not driving software development. Naturally there’s bound to be some divergence between customer requirements/expectations and what developers deliver. Remember that the bulk of this stuff is built on volunteer time.

I agree that a lot of areas could use some user-oriented development. In particular audio and video editing, word-processing, image-processing, video games etc.

7 comments

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  2. Brajesh

    Something about outlook- it might have been for forever now, but it’s an incredible piece of software (PoS the other way:-)) Hook it up with MS Exchange – the calendar, auto reminders are ‘hard to put away’ functionalities – at least for corporate setup. I used to be used of these things, I’m trying to live without them these days. Show me an F/LOSS example of that stature.

  3. Diwaker Gupta

    *@brajesh*: I don’t want to beat this out too much, because its not a very sound argument, but in some sense this is a chicken and egg problem. If some big muscle corps (IBM, HP etc) _wanted_ to use an OSS replacement for Outlook, I’m sure things would get mobilized pretty soon.

    FWIW, some not-so-small companies already do use some Exchange like stuff. Kolab (http://kolab.org) is pretty big in Europe. Novell is using Hula (http://www.hula-project.org/) and probably Evolution. So is Redhat. I’ve used Exchange, and I’ve used some OSS groupware stuff, and honestly, I don’t see whats the big deal.

  4. Shashikant

    Exchange has penetrated very strongly in corporate environment and there is general reluctance, rightly so, to move from (broken) Exchange to some other solution. And, seriously, I haven’t heard of any Apache-like powerful Exchange replacement.

    I should not speak much about Open/Closed software as myself I’m working on closed software.

  5. Diwaker Gupta

    *@shashikant*: Well you haven’t heard about one because there really isn’t anything as big and integrated with the entire corporate workflow as the whole Outlook/Exchange sheband. BTW, did you know that big corporations often have thousands of exchange server and for each exchange server, they need to employ upto 3 people just for server maintenance? Thats a huge operational cost, but since email is so critical these days and there’s no other viable alternative, companies just suck it up.

    And there’s nothing wrong in working on closed software. That doesn’t make you evil or uneligible to discuss open source! :)

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